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Rutgers student who secretly videotaped roommate texted friend about ‘viewing party’

By Karen Sudol, The Record (Hackensack N.J.) –

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Dharun Ravi texted a high school friend that Rutgers University students were having a “viewing party with a bottle of bacardi and beer” to watch an intimate encounter between his roommate and another man streamed online, reinforcing the prosecution’s contention that Ravi wanted to invade the privacy of Tyler Clementi and was biased against gays.

Ravi encouraged his friend Michelle Huang to take a look as well, explaining he had a webcam pointed at Clementi’s bed and “the monitor is off so he can’t see you,” she testified Monday at Ravi’s trial.

Another text from Ravi to Huang read: “Yeah, keep the gays away.”

It was some of the most damaging testimony to date, with prosecutors using Ravi’s own words to try to convince jurors that he is anti-gay and not only planned to watch a second intimate encounter between Clementi and his guest, but invited others to watch as well.

The texts contradict the defense’s contention that Ravi used the webcam because he was concerned that Clementi’s guest, known only as M.B. to protect his identity, would steal his iPad.

Ravi’s attorneys, though, have been successful in getting prosecution witnesses to testify that Ravi never spewed any hatred toward Clementi and did not have an issue with his sexual orientation.

Ravi, 20, of Plainsboro, N.J., faces multiple counts of invasion of privacy, hindering apprehension and bias intimidation — a hate crime that carries the heftiest punishment of up to 10 years in prison. In order for prosecutors to prove bias intimidation, they must show that Ravi intimidated Clementi because of his sexual orientation. Clementi, of Ridgewood, N.J., killed himself just days after his first encounter with M.B. was streamed.

Prosecutors said that first encounter took place on Sept. 19, 2010, when Ravi and his dorm mate Molly Wei watched Clementi and M.B. kissing via the webcam he had set up. At the time, Ravi posted a tweet saying he was in Wei’s room and had just seen his roommate “making out with a dude.”

Wei — who avoided criminal prosecution by taking a plea that required her to testify against Ravi — then briefly activated the camera again to show her friends and roommate.

But according to testimony from dorm mate Lokesh Ojha, when Ravi learned Clementi’s companion was visiting again on Sept. 21, he enlisted Ojha’s help to position the camera directly at Clementi’s bed.

In a tweet that evening, Ravi invited others with iChat to video chat him between 9:30 p.m. and midnight to watch because “it’s happening again.”

On Monday morning, Assistant Middlesex County Prosecutor Chris Schellhorn walked Huang through a series of texts she exchanged with Ravi on Sept. 21.

Huang, who attends Cornell University, asked Ravi if he had “really” seen Clementi “make out with some guy.” She said she learned about it from reading Ravi’s first tweet.

He responded, “Yeah omg molly saw it too. He was older and creepy and def(initely) from the internet.”

When she jokingly suggested that Clementi’s friend might be in Ravi’s bed after he told her Clementi had asked Ravi when he was coming home that night, Ravi responded, “I set my computer to alert me if anyone is in it when I’m not there. Lol.”

He continued the string of conversation by saying, “My webcam checks my bed. Haha. I got so creeped out after Sunday.”

And later, “Yeah, keep the gays away.”

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